in Air Transport

Resumption of restricted South African air services welcome but more is needed

Posted 2 June 2020 · Add Comment

The Airlines Association of Southern Africa sees the resumption of South African domestic passenger air services, albeit on a limited basis, as a positive move, but more destinations will be included in a phased in basis for the industry to make a meaningful contribution to the recovery of the country’s economy.

 

Under the country’s State of Disaster COVID-19 Level 3 restrictions, which came into force

today, local carriers are permitted to offer flights on the main trunk routes linking

Johannesburg (both OR Tambo and Lanseria airports), Cape Town and Durban – under

stringent health and biosecurity conditions.

 

“It is crucial that the new systems are given appropriate capacity by Port Health so they can

be stress-tested as quickly and rigorously as possible. Only then will the reconnection of

other inland and coastal cities be phased in. The sooner this occurs, the better as survival

of airlines and their ability to support the repair of the local and national economies are

entirely dependent on this,” explained AASA CEO, Chris Zweigenthal.

 

Intra-Africa regional and inter-continental long-haul flights will only resume when there is

mutual agreement between nations to re-open their borders for passenger traffic other than

ad hoc repatriation charter flights. “AASA will continue to work with the authorities and the

tourism sector to support the re-introduction of these services.”

 

Every South African-domiciled airline intending to operate under the latest regulations must

first submit their COVID-19 health and safety protocols and procedures, flight schedule and

request for departure and arrival slots to SA Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Company

South Africa and Air Traffic Navigation Services respectively for approval before they are

entitled to fly. Although the permission to fly became effective today, a lead time is

necessary for the necessary authorisation to be given and plans to be put in place.

Travellers should check with their preferred airline to verify the status of their schedules and

availability of tickets.

 

“The start-up phase will be difficult for all carriers as it involves significant financial outlays

before any revenues have been generated. Most carriers worldwide, including South Africa,

only had about two months of cash reserves in late March 2020, when the travel restrictions

were imposed, bringing the industry to a sudden halt. AASA is supporting the call for the

South African Government to specifically direct financial aid to the air transport sector - on

an ownership-agnostic basis – as all airlines and associated service providers are vital to the

country’s economic revival. Without an efficient air transport system, South Africa’s

economic recovery will be prolonged and painful,” added Zweigenthal.

 

Relief mechanisms at Government’s disposal include deferrals and waivers of taxes and

statutory charges as well as user fees for airports, air navigation and weather services, loans

and loan guarantees to enable the raising of debt in the capital markets, direct aid with wage

subsidies and cash injections to help industry players cover unavoidable costs during the restart

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